A myHT Fortress

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ignorant. Pathetic. Self-Absorbed.

“Ignorant.” “Pathetic.” “Self-absorbed.” A New Albany, Indiana Kindergarten teacher has made national news with such nasty names for one of her students. After telling his parents for some time that his teacher was mean to him, Gabriel Ross’ family recorded the hateful remarks that he was receiving. The teacher has been suspended, however the teachers’ union is challenging that decision. In the end, there is no justification for such berating of a 5-year-old, and turning classmates against him, as has been recorded.

Setting aside that these names were hurtful and sinful in their context, and simply inappropriate, let’s take a moment to ponder these three statements.


“Ignorant” means that one does not know something. Ignorant is different from (other hurtful adjectives, such as) “dumb” or “stupid.” Ignorance is not an inability to know, it is simply a lack of knowledge. Ironically, at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Eve and Adam thought they were expanding their knowledge. When it was said and done (and eaten), they knew good and evil, alright! But now they no longer desired the good. They craved what was against God.

Now, they had become ignorant. And we follow in their footsteps. We are born not knowing God. We are without saving knowledge of Him—not just a head knowledge, but the knowledge of a relationship. Only through the work of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and the preaching of the Gospel does that saving “knowledge” come.


“Pathetic.” We are filled with such sadness and sorrow in our fallen nature. This horrible predicament can lead others to have pity (either out of compassion or disgust.) Such a condition is what we call “pathetic.”

“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him…” The shattered image of God from the Garden makes us pathetic. We cannot do anything to change it. We are helpless. The last words that Luther penned come to mind: “In truth, we are all beggars.” That’s pathetic.


“Self-absorbed.” There is no beating around the bush. Every human being has moments when it is quite clear he or she is self-absorbed. Sin, death, and the devil all prompt each of us to make choices in our thoughts, words, and actions that are “best for me.” No longer do we think in terms of community or serving others. We have been fully immersed in a “self-serve” society.

“You gotta do what’s best for you.” “You deserve it.” “Help yourself.” We are surrounded with messages to pamper ourselves, and let everyone else do the same. We end up in a world that does not lack necessary self-esteem, but actually is plagued by an overactive self-esteem!

The Rest of the Story

“Man, Pastor Heinz is being pretty heavy with the Law!” Well, yes, as I am proclaiming to you the shortcomings we all have before the throne of God. Yet, dear friends in Christ, you know that this is not the end of the story.

Precisely because you and I are ignorant, pathetic, and self-absorbed, our dear Lord Jesus has come to suffer all for us. He received the harsh punishment of a world that knew Him not – ignorant of the Son of God!

He gave up all, as He became pathetic for us. The Man of Sorrows endured suffering beyond belief. Why? To make us feel guilty? (You know, I am talking about the “Jesus did all that horrible suffering for you, now don’t you just feel terrible?!” feeling.) Absolutely not! Our Savior did all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.

Our Lord became the One who could truly absorb all of our guilt to remove it once and for all. As He stepped into the Jordan to be baptized, our amazing self-less Savior soaked up all our sin and death, that He might make that lasting payment on our behalf.

Should the New Albany teacher have told such things to a Kindergartener? Absolutely not. Are those things true of us? Yes, and every other man, woman, and child on this earth.

However, our Redeemer has purchased and won our righteousness and innocence. The Master Teacher has the divine gift of the knowledge of forgiveness and life – a gift given through His precious Gospel and Sacraments. On account of Jesus Christ, you are no longer ignorant, pathetic, and self-absorbed; you have our Triune God who removes these qualities and makes you His own through His Divine knowledge, empathy, and selflessness.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pastor iPod

I was one of the chaperones on the 7th/8th grade trip to Saint Louis this month. It was fun getting to spend some time with these kids outside of class. We all got to know each other better as individuals.

One of the funny moments was when the four girls riding with another parent and me were talking music. I mentioned my iPod. "You have an iPod, Pastor?!"

"Yes," I laughed.

They were amazed to hear popular music in my playlist, like David Cook, Plain White T's, Blake Lewis, and others. Suddenly, "Pastor" became a person to them.

Kristi, Ben and I are really enjoying our iPods -- even if sharing our music library means that Hannah Montana, and Pokemon's "Do You Like Waffles" show up on my
lists. LOL

Friday, May 23, 2008

Before He Speaks

God knows when we need a light moment to brighten dark times. This morning, I was led to this YouTube by Glenda Mumme, who found it on Wendy & Her Lost Boys.

I am not one to use my family, or even myself as sermon illustrations. It usually takes away from the point. But THIS is funny!


Monday, May 19, 2008

Christ Crucified Creates; Devil Distracts and Dismays

Things are most trying when the Gospel is at work in a congregation. Did you ever notice that? When the Gospel is being taught clearly, and the Sacraments are administered rightly, Satan unleashes all he can to fight it off.

The parish I served as a seminary student had been making a great turn around. From a dying, mostly white congregation (perceived as exclusive and unwelcoming) in a neighborhood of
90% or more of other backgrounds, the church was reaching out with the Gospel to their neighborhood. The Sunday School and a mid-week program were thriving. Children were picked up for church, even when parents did not come. The love and forgiveness of Christ was being brought to dozens of new kids and their families!

The devil hates this. And wouldn't you know it, things started happening. The church van that picked kids up suddenly had a flat tire. The church steeple was struck by lightening. There were attempted break-ins at the church office. The 100-year-old building was having its share of problems. Yes, all of these are typical in our fallen world, but the timing suggested that we were under attack by the prince of this world.

Right now, it is feeling that way here. The Gospel is being taught purely and clearly to our school kids and our parish. The sacraments are rightly administered. Jesus Christ is being proclaimed in our Lutheran congregation!

But Satan is at work too. He attempts to divide people, setting up "sides," and planting suspicions. He encourages feelings that others don't understand or care for us, even when it is not true. He gives nudges to send us down spirals of depression or spinning upwards into whirlwinds of anxiety.

Fight the good fight. Pastors, deliver those Holy Gifts! And laity, receive them with the greatest regularity! And respond to those Gifts by praying without ceasing, friends. Pray for the success of the Gospel, and for the hindrance of every plan of the devil!

Don't give in to the anxiety or depression, or else he wins. Your refuge is in Christ, who has conquered Satan. Have no fear, little flock, your Good Shepherd is victorious over that big, bad wolf!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Christ, Have Mercy: Pastors' Conference

Earlier this week, I attended a portion of our Indiana District's southern regional pastors' conference. What I experienced was quite good.

Matt Harrison from LCMS World Relief spoke on the whole connection of showing mercy in living out our faith. Excellent points on faith in action, loving neighbors through our vocation, and building relationships with the communities surrounding our parishes.

I also had a good heart-to-heart with President Dan May. Pastor May has been very encouraging and supportive as District President. Lots of wisdom and kindness for the clergy in his care. Thanks, Dan, for your willing ears and kind words.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Homily for Easter VII

John 17:1-11 ESV

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This week, our “Week of Weeks” draws to a close. The seven-week celebration of the Victory of Christ’s Resurrection is rapidly nearing completion. While we rejoice in the rising of our Lord Jesus every Sunday, the intensified focus is nearly complete for this year. But our Risen Savior has words of comfort to encourage us in these last days – days when we no longer see Jesus walking about as His apostles saw Him, in His earthly form.

This morning we hear Jesus pray to our heavenly Father: “I have manifested your name.” I have revealed You. I have made you known. Christ our Lord who rose from the dead reveals to us our wondrous, Triune God.

Yet in our earthly lives, our Old Adams do not want to notice what Jesus has revealed. We cover our eyes, and avoid seeing Jesus. We turn away, refusing to witness God as He desires to come to us. We are far more interested in other sources for revealing a god.

Where do we look for our god to be revealed? We look for our Master to be revealed in entertainment. In our culture of Nintendos, laptop computers, iPods, and cell phones that are only desirable if they come with functions as camera and game systems, we are consumed with the idea that we must be entertained. So we sit back, and instead of witnessing the amazing comfort and awe and splendor of one- or two-thousand year old songs and prayers of the Holy Liturgy, we let our minds drift, and covet the worldly entertainment that has lured and enticed others.

Where do we look for our god to be revealed? We often look for signs of God in financial success. Our heads are turned away from Christ as attention shifts to monetary blessings. We might worship at the altar of the scanner, bar code, and plastic card, or perhaps just work harder to have cash in hand. We also might become totally immersed in the idea of wiping out debts to the point that our families, our obligations, and our relationships take a back seat. In the end, we might have a god in our credit, or another god of financial freedom. Old Adam is always looking to turn blessings into false gods.

In the end, we are looking just about anywhere except to the one place – to the One Lord and True God revealed to us through Jesus Christ – God-in-the-flesh!

Dear friends in Christ, we have comfort and joy from Jesus as we hear Him pray for us: Holy Father, keep them in your name.” Our Father in heaven does indeed keep us. He protects and preserves us, as He leads us to abide in Him. He protects us from the devil, the world, and our sinful selves. And thus, He protects and keeps us from everlasting condemnation.

How does He protect us? God protects us as He forgives and strengthens us – through His Means of Grace! In Holy Baptism He placed His name upon us, rescuing us from the slavery to sin and death into which we were born. He claimed us! In Holy Absolution, He offers to continually protect and keep us from falling back into a lazy life as “Old Adam.” He protects us from a life of imperfection and giving in to our fleshly desires. And in His Holy Supper, God protects and keeps us from those same enemies, as He feeds us with His very self, nourishing us with His Holy Body and Blood, granting forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Now we regularly and frequently gather to receive these Gifts which strengthen and protect us. That is the entire purpose of coming to the Divine Service. Not simply to pray. Not merely to praise God. But to receive His Holy Gifts. You really are freed and released from your guilt as you hear the Gospel preached! It is happening right now! God is cancelling your debt of sin and selfishness at this very moment! He did the same at your Baptism, and soon He will sustain you with Himself in the Sacrament of the Altar. As you continually receive Jesus in His Gifts, He continually works on you and forgives, protects, and strengthens you!

This past Wednesday a group of our faithful celebrated the Eve of the Ascension of Our Lord. At His ascension, Jesus was taken up, body and soul, into heaven. He is at the right hand of God even now, still in that risen and glorified Body! Yet this is in no way limiting Him.

You see, the Father is everywhere. So His right hand is everywhere. You can be assured with holy comfort that our Lord Jesus is present in that same risen glorified Body wherever His Gospel and Sacraments are delivered. Yes! Indeed! That is the joyous mystery of this Holy Day! Jesus went away precisely to get closer to us!

Jesus’ ascension did NOT take Him away! No, dear friends in Christ. He ascended precisely to come to you! Now He can come in His Body to bring Himself to you, and with Himself, His holy gifts of forgiveness and life.

This morning Jesus thanks His Father for glorifying Him, but not because He likes the attention or fame. Our Savior thanks His Father for this glory so that in this glory, He can “Give eternal life to all whom you have given [Me.]” The Father has sent the Spirit to call you to faith, gather you, enlighten and sanctify you, so that the Son can give you this abundant life!

Praise God, dear friends, for you have a wonderful ascended Lord, who is with you, giving you protection and all things you need to be ushered into eternal life. His glory, His suffering, His death, and resurrection, and now, His ascension, are all for you! So rejoice in His resurrection, knowing that this Good News brings you Christ Jesus Himself! Amen!


That's better.

Honey, where is the Aleve?

We actually were able to spend a little time in the yard today. We weeded some flower beds, transplanted some raspberries that volunteered next to our driveway (and were going to choke the hostas and other plants), and mulched. We also cleaned up the patio and fixed some planters there.

It turned out to be a pleasant day. Windy, but sunny. So the mud is slowly drying up. We'll just have to wait a little more until we plant the veggies in the garden.

Now we just need to find out how to be less stiff after such a morning (and afternoon.) Being closer to 40, that's harder to do these days!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Drenched Derby?

This weekend is big in our area. I mean, BIG! Tomorrow will be the day for the "Fastest Two Minutes of the Year" -- the Kentucky Derby. Here is southern Indiana, it is also a gigantic morning for yard sales.

This afternoon and this evening we had a lot of rain. The ground is saturated. That means several things:

1. Our Saturday afternoon planting in our garden is now delayed due to the extreme muddiness.

2. We got quite drenched unloading items for our youth yard sale in the school gym, and it could be a miserable mess for the gym floor. :-)

3. The Derby could get interesting! Sloppy! Slippery! Maybe the jockeys will "slide into home" -- oops. Wrong sport.